TV shows depicting substance abuse and addiction offer incredibly meaningful, suspenseful, and eye-opening story lines that will be sure to have you hooked. No matter which genre of television you are interested in, from comedy to reality TV, there is likely a booming show you will enjoy centered around the effects of drugs and alcohol.
The statistics on alcohol and drug usage in the media are very high, with numbers showing that on television there is one drinking scene shown every 22 minutes, one smoking scene every 57 minutes, and an illegal drug scene every 112 minutes. Some shows offer a very straight up, realistic look into the matter while others shine a light in a much more relaxed sense.
Here we have chosen to focus on the shows that offer the most realistic representation of addiction in people's lives. Regardless, these shows provide a voice that brings clarity and even comfort to viewers, relieving feelings of shame or guilt that may surround struggles to try to beat addiction. If you are looking to tune into exciting story lines covering the lows of addiction, the highs of recovery, and everything in between, keep reading.
TV SHOWS about drugs/addiction
Intervention is likely the most notable, and heart-wrenchingly realistic representation of how substance abuse can wreak havoc on a person's life. Intervention is a documentary series that was on air from 2005-2015, with episodes still being shown on A&E and is available to watch on Hulu and various other online services. Intervention follows the lives of drug and alcohol addicts, who believe they are being filmed for a documentary, but are actually awaiting an intervention from their family or friends. The film crew follows these addicts as they go through a typical day in their life, capturing their drug abuse and watching them destroy not only their lives but also their family and friends. Eventually, the intervention is staged in which an interventionist joins the addicts family and friends to discuss their addiction and why it is absolutely crucial that they seek treatment. At the end of the show, the addict is faced with the choice between going to rehab or having ties cut, and losing contact and support of their family and friends. Jeff Weaver of GRB Entertainment described the show as “It’s just brutally honest in its portrayal of addiction, I think our viewers can really sense that and respond to it favorably. And as hard as it is to watch, it’s also very hard to turn away from.” Intervention is serious and disturbing, taking you on an emotional journey that will leave you never wanting to touch drugs or alcohol again.
Shameless takes a different approach to addiction, for it’s a comedy-drama series that depicts the effects that a father’s alcohol abuse has on an entire family. The series will be releasing its ninth season this September on Showtime, with the critical consensus claiming that “Shameless is a dark, urban dramedy that overcomes its leaps of logic thanks to fantastic casting, intriguing ambiance, and shock value.” Shameless follows a family of six kids and their father Frank, an unemployable alcoholic and drug user who spends all of his time and money on alcohol and at the bars. Franks habits leave his oldest daughter Fiona responsible for taking care of the large family, and with Frank’s consistent absence Fiona refers to her younger siblings as her kids. The family goes through highs and lows, as they face poverty, growth, adventure, and hardships. The show demonstrates the real effects of addiction, in that not only does it affect the substance user’s life, but the lives of everyone around them as well. Shameless is an exciting, funny, and dramatic show that is impossible not to binge-watch.
If you are looking for less of a time commitment than a show with multiple seasons, check out Recovery Road, available online on Hulu and other streaming platforms, which aired for one season on FreeForm. Recovery Road is a drama that tackles the topic of addiction in teenagers, as well as the power of recovery. The main character, Maddie, is a 17-year-old high school girl who has developed an addiction to both alcohol and cocaine. Maddie is a high-functioning addict, who is seemingly managing school and her addiction until she is caught bringing vodka to school and must face the consequences. Maddie is given the choice of being expelled from her high school or admitting to an addiction recovery center. Though in denial of her problems, she ultimately goes the recovery route because of her mother’s coercion. This show brings a new perspective to addiction, going against stereotypes often associated with addicts, showing that addiction can genuinely affect anyone, no matter their age, gender, or upbringing. Recovery Road gives the viewer a spot on look into recovery, what life is like inside a treatment center, and all the emotions and grief addicts feel. The show reveals how addiction does not have to be a permanent aspect of our lives, as recovery is always a life-changing option.
Mom is a comedy series currently airing on CBS that was just picked up for its sixth season. The series is highly acclaimed, with star Allison Janney receiving two consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. The show follows a mother-daughter duo, Anna Faris as Christy and Allison Janney as Bonnie, who are both recovering drug and alcohol addicts. Christy is a single mother of two, who juggles raising her children, attending AA meetings and handling her mother as she works on bettering her life. Christy and her mother Bonnie work on their relationship, as Bonnie neglected Christy for much or her upbringing due to being a struggling addict. Much of the show is set in the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that both Christy and Bonnie attend, shining light on recovery options and showing that seeking help and continuous treatment is nothing to be ashamed of. The show offers a fantastic depiction of what it is like to come from a family of addicts, and the journey of forgiveness, healing, and acceptance that follows. Mom is an easy watch that is both informative and humorous
The Netflix original series Flaked starring Will Arnett tells the story of a recovering alcoholic Chip, who is working on himself after killing someone in a drunk driving incident years prior. Will Arnett battles with alcoholism in his personal life and can portray his real-life struggles on screen. Arnett talked about the truthfulness of the show with USA today and told them that “You can’t say that it’s not accurate, because it’s my experience. I’m shedding a little light on my relationship with my own sobriety, which at times has been tricky at best.” Arnett’s personal experience makes Flaked, unlike any other show that has tackled the subject, bringing a real and honest first-hand perspective. There are two seasons of Flaked available to watch, full of drama, humor, and plot twist you would never expect.
This Is Us
This is Us is currently one of the most popular tv shows airing on NBC, with season three set to release in September of this year. The show is a drama series centered around a family of three siblings and their parents. Two of the siblings are twins, Kevin and Kate, and they have an adopted brother Randall, who was abandoned on steps by his heroin-addict father. Jack, their father, also faces struggles, as he is an alcoholic that watches as his addiction hurts his life, and spirals into his families. Kevin, one of his sons, also struggles with alcohol as well as pills. Alcoholism is not necessarily the center of this show, as it jumps between scenes in the past and present, focusing on the upbringing of the children, the parent's marriage, where they are now, and the issues they tackle as a family. TV Guide has described the show as “a well-acted drama about love, life, and family.” This is Us is a great show for people of all ages, and perfect for families to watch together.
Nurse Jackie was a series described as a medical-comedy, that aired on Showtime for seven seasons, currently available on numerous online television providers. The show has received an exceptionally high appraisal for its ability to offer a painstakingly realistic portrayal of addiction. The main character, emergency room nurse Jackie Peyton is addicted to painkillers, showing the reality of a high functioning addict in society. Nurse Jackie goes against the stereotype that all addicts are unable to hold jobs, have friends, and be involved in society. Even those with professions highly thought of, such as nurses and doctors, are susceptible to addiction. There are addicts all around us, as Jackie finds herself hiding her addiction from her fellow coworkers and family, as she reaches for painkillers all throughout the workday. The show embodies how dangerous it is to do our daily tasks while impaired, with Jackie nearly causing her patient to overdose while under the influence of prescription drugs. Nurse Jackie also dives into the topic of recovery, as she decides to enter rehab, which is difficult for her, a mother of two. Nurse Jackie is the ideal to show to watch if you are looking to gain an understanding of the life of a high functioning addict and the journey to sobriety that follows.
Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black is a Netflix original series that demonstrates the unfortunate life of many drug and alcohol abusers finding themselves living behind bars. Orange is the New Black is comedy-drama series set in an all-women minimum-security federal prison, following the lives of prisoners behind bars, and sharing their stories that led them to end up there. The two main characters, Piper Chapman and Alex Vause are both incarcerated for drug-related crimes. Piper, for transporting money earned from drugs, and Alex for being a drug smuggler. There are many other cast members with ties to the drug scene, showing scenes of drug deals, overdoses, and addicts all throughout the series. Orange is the New Black is an intense, funny, and dramatic show that has gained extreme popularity since its premiere in 2013. While not suitable for kids, Orange is the New Black is an ideal show for young adults interested in the different perspectives of these women in prison.
All of these shows bring different factors to the equation, but at the end of the day are centered around the same underlying themes of drugs, alcohol, addiction, and the effects they have on your life and the lives of those around you. Some other great shows to check out along the same theme of drugs and alcohol include Celebrity Rehab Presents Sober House, Mad Men, Elementary, and Girls. Addiction is tough to both live through and talk about, and these shows supply comfort in realizing the problem affects all walks of life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, remember that there is help to be sought before ending up like a character on Orange is the New Black. Landmark Recovery’s goal is to help you break the cycle of addiction and begin the road to recovery and a life without pain and struggle. At Landmark Recovery, we offer a passionate and supportive team dedicated to your success with individualized drug and alcohol recovery plans catered to each patient’s needs. Stop letting your addiction control you, and reach out to our team of specialists at Landmark Recovery today.